PLOT: Two private investigators break into his abandoned house and find another collection of mysterious VHS tapes while looking for a missing student. The tapes reveal several stories of violence and supernatural mayhem.
REVIEW:So you know where I stand: I'm a big fan of anthologies, but was quite let down by V/H/S, which I found to be repetitive and fairly uninspired. My biggest issues with that film were that almost every character was either an insane girl or loathsome dude, while the talented directors involved brought little to the found footage format (which is becoming more and more tiresome with every attempt). Also hard to ignore: it just wasn't very scary. That said, I was willing to give V/H/S/2 a chance, as it presented a (mostly) new set of directors tackling a fresh batch of nightmarish stories.
The good news, for me at least, is that V/H/S/2 does indeed improve on its predecessor; the stories are a little more interesting, and the directors have found some reasonably innovative new excuses for their characters to be shooting everything. (Because let's face it: the found footage thing is about suspending disbelief that a character would still be concentrating on their camera while all hell breaks loose around them.) The bad news is, it's only a mild improvement, boasting one genuinely good short and a handful of "just okay" ones.
The best way to review the film is to simply go through the shorts one by one:
TAPE 49, directed by Simon Barrett, is the anthology's wrap-around story and a companion piece of sorts to the first film's TAPE 56. Two private investigators look for a missing student at the behest of his mother and stumble upon a mysterious batch of tapes in the student's house. When they watch the content of the tapes, so do we. Not unlike the V/H/S/2's wrap-around story, TAPE 49 is the weakest piece of the puzzle, providing us with uninteresting characters and a story that doesn't actual go anywhere. The resolution, which should be a highlight, is a "WTF?" letdown. Maybe in V/H/S/3 the franchise's creators will let us in on what is actually going on here with these tapes and their strange power, but don't look for anything resembling a satisfying explanation in this entry.
Adam Wingard's (A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE) PHASE 1 CLINICAL TRIALS is semi-amusing: a man (played by Wingard himself) has a chip implanted in his eye that records everything he sees. Unfortunately for him, a side-effect of the procedure is that he now sees ghosts everywhere, and they've apparently got a beef with him. Most of CLINICAL TRIALS plays out like a standard ghost story but for the eyeball-camera gimmick; figures appear and disappear with suddenness, giving you a jolt or two and little more.
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT's Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale's A RIDE IN THE PARK documents a fellow's bike ride in the woods which is quickly thwarted by a zombie attack. It's not spoiling anything to say that he becomes a member of the undead himself, and we're witness to his flesh-munching activities thanks to a camera installed in his bike helmet. It's a fun idea, seeing a zombie epidemic from the POV of one of the zombies, but Sanchez and Hale only nibble at the many possibilities; I dare say they could have taken it much further.
SAFE HAVEN is the undisputed champ of V/H/S/2. Directed by Gareth Huw Evans (THE RAID) and Timo Tjahjanto (MACABRE), it takes us on an initially ominous, ultimately insane journey into a death cult's lair. Honestly, the less said about this one, the better, as it consistently shocks with an assortment of freakish twists and turns. It's funny, too, in a very bleak way.
Finally, there's ALIEN ABDUCTION SLUMBER PARTY, from HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN director Jason Eisener. Hand it to Eisener: his titles are quite descriptive. As suggested, this short focuses on an overnight party for a group of teens that gets interrupted by hellish aliens. Eisener scores points for the clever angle of having the majority of ALIEN ABDUCTION take place from the POV of a dog (he's got a camera strapped to his head, apparently), and crafts a quick, moderately entertaining bit of craziness. However, this segment will be the bane of people who inherently dislike found footage movies, as the "shaky cam" effect is in full force, resulting in quite a bit of motion sickness.
While it's hardly a stunner, V/H/S/2 definitely improves on the first film, which makes me hope against hope that the inevitable third installment of the franchise is even better.